EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Some thoughts and observations from the St. Louis Rams' third open organized team activity Tuesday.
The Rams don't have many weaknesses on their defense with all of their projected starters and key backups returning, plus the offseason additions of linebacker Akeem Ayers and defensive tackle Nick Fairley. But for right now, in June, when the games and real practices still haven't started, they are a little thin at strong safety. On Tuesday, they were working without starter T.J. McDonald and backup Mark Barron, leaving some first-team reps for second-year man Maurice Alexander.
Since we aren't in season, Rams coach Jeff Fisher is not required to offer an injury update but did acknowledge that McDonald has been dealing with some sort of injury issue.
"He's coming off a little ordeal," Fisher said. "He'll be ready for camp. He had a little offseason issue."
McDonald has been present at the OTAs, but knowing that he'll be back in time for training camp should alleviate any concerns. He was one of the team's most productive players near the end of last season, and though he's missing out on valuable reps, there will be plenty of time for him to get back in the mix during camp -- assuming Fisher's prognosis holds. Barron's case is a little more of an unknown. For now, Alexander is getting valuable opportunities that could be helpful in the long run. The former fourth-round pick was considered a bit of a project when the Rams drafted him, so any additional chances he gets to work with the first team could benefit him long-term.
Joining Barron and McDonald in sitting out Tuesday's practice were receiver Damian Williams, running back Todd Gurley, cornerback Brandon McGee, tackle Steven Baker, guard Cody Wichmann and tight end Alex Bayer. Gurley continues to get plenty of work on the side. Receiver Brian Quick, guard Rodger Saffold and tackle Greg Robinson continued to work only in individual drills.
On the offensive line, it was Barrett Jones' turn to work with the first-team offense. He was joined by the usual cast of teammates for team drills with Brandon Washington at left tackle, Garrett Reynolds at left guard, Jamon Brown at right guard and Rob Havenstein at right tackle. For what it's worth, Fisher says there are no plans to settle on a starting center right away. In other words, expect Jones, Tim Barnes and Demetrius Rhaney to continue competing for the job into training camp.
Fisher said his team got a lot of work done Tuesday, but had to cut a period because they were about to go over on time. Part of the reason for that might have been some sloppiness with pre-snap penalties. During one team period, there was a run of about three out of five plays in which somebody jumped on either or both sides of the ball.
As you would expect, the defense remains well ahead of the offense during team drills, but Tuesday was better for the offense than it has been in other open sessions. One reason? The ball was coming out awfully quick. That's one way to neutralize the Rams' defensive line, especially without the benefit of pads. As always, these OTAs should be taken with the appropriate grain of salt.
A few from the highlight reel for Tuesday ... During individual drills, undrafted rookie receiver Bradley Marquez made a beautiful diving catch in the end zone on a deep ball from quarterback Nick Foles. The catch came with no defenders, but still drew praise from teammates and coaches for the effort. ... In one team session, safety Rodney McLeod came on a perfectly disguised blitz and timed it just right to jar the ball loose and recover it. ... Linebacker Alec Ogletree came up with an impressive pass breakup against tight end Jared Cook.